Israel Resource Review 15th August, 2007


Ehud Barak, Draft Dodging and Ehud Olmert's sons
David Bedein

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made an unusual policy statement, ordering the Israel's military establishment was going to "take steps to reduce the level draft-dodging" amongst healthy young men of draft age who are avoiding compulsory army service.

Barak was not only relating to high profile instances in which Israeli soldiers refuse to carry out orders or to even to serve in the Israeli army for ideological reasons.

Indeed, there are well organized Israeli groups who oppose Israel's military presence in Judea and Samaria and who will encourage Israeli soldiers to desert their units if they are assigned to Judea and Samaria areas that were acquired by Israel in 1967 after Israel fought off a ground attack from Jordan, during the Six Day War.

One group that encourages Israeli soldiers to desert their units rather than serve in Judea and Samaria is known as THE COURAGE TO REFUSE.

Yet another group, YESH GVUL, distributes leaflets to Israeli soldiers in which it offers them $750 a month if they are arrested for refusing to serve in these areas, also known as the west bank.

More than a year ago, the Israel State Prosecutor answered a query from this reporter about YESH GVUL's $750 offer by writing that it was "considering criminal prosecution of YESH GVUL for offering such a gratuity to conduct a felony in the Israeli army". No prosecution has yet taken place, however.

Another level of draft-dodging that concerns Barak, is a less ideological approach taken by some Israelis that "it is simply not important" to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

One organization that has cropped up, NEW PROFILE, conducts high profile counseling services and a web site which instructs potential Israeli conscripts on ways of avoiding IDF service, by faking medical records, by feigning drug abuse or by showing various assortment of physical weaknesses.

On November 27th, 2003, Israel's leading TV investigative journalist, Rafi Ginat, host of the popular consumer protection show known as KOLBOTECK, aired a show in which Ginat presented his undercover journalist who had entering the NEW PROFILE counseling service in Tel Aviv with a hidden camera, and who had recorded a team of professionals providing each new "client" with several hours of convincing counseling on why and how to get out of Israeli army service.

Barak's barbs about those who avoid the Israeli army for ideological reasons and for reasons of expedience, may have been aimed at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself, who has never uttered a word of criticism against his own two sons.

Olmert's oldest son, Shaul, has worked as a vice president of MTV in New York for the past seven years. Besides avoiding IDF reserve duty, Shaul Olmert has signed on the international petitions of COURAGE TO REFUSE who support Israeli soldiers who will desert their units rather than be deployed in Judea and Samaria. Prime Minister Olmert's second son, Ariel, mysteriously avoided service in the Israeli army and studies in Paris, France.

With elections on the horizon, one can easily imagine Ehud Barak, decorated with five medals of bravery in combat, using the "army attitude" of Ehud Olmert's family in a future election campaign

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The Israeli WASP Factor

by David Bedein

Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu was reelected as party head with 73% of the vote. Netanyahu, who has served as Deputy Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister and Prime Minister of Israel, beat off a passionate challenge by Jewish Leadership faction chairman Moshe Feiglin, who received 23% of the vote. Another challenger, World Likud chairman Danny Danon, garnered 4% of the vote.

Feiglin ran with the support of a homogeneous Orthodox group of 150 or so Likud Jewish Leadership central party members. They campaigned throughout the country with a platform that called for stronger reaction to Arab attacks, while calling for a nation-state that would be grounded in God and traditional Jewish values.

This reporter spent Likud primary election day in Sderot, a small, working-class town comprised of primarily Sephardic Jewish Israelis. They now live on the new civilian front line of Israel, under daily rocket attacks from Gaza, and facing additional problems of economic depression and wanton neglect by the Israeli government. The state refuses to provide appropriate protection for schools, appropriate repairs of bomb shelters and appropriate military responses focused on population centers in Gaza. It is those centers that host the terrorists and rocket launchers terrorizing the population of Sderot and the Western Negev over the past seven years.

With Moshe Feiglin posters plastered throughout Sderot, and with anger against every aspect of the Israeli establishment in every corner of the city, the question posed to Sderot Likud members was simple: Will you support Feiglin, who is indeed calling for a stronger response to the attacks that are plaguing the city? The answer that was almost universally expressed on the lips of Sderot voters was: "Feiglin is not one of us . . . . Why did he not put people on his factional candidates list from Israel's development towns, people who are not Orthodox, not Ashkenazi and not middle class?"

Indications are that people from Sephardic working class towns who could have provided a swing vote for a Feiglin victory felt that Feiglin did not reach out to them and did not speak their language. In other words, people of Sderot and similar towns identified Moshe Feiglin as an Israeli WASP - a White Ashkenazi Sabra with Protexia. (In Israeli terminology, one who has "pull" with the establishment is said to have protexia.)

The lesson to be learned from this week's elections is that any future challenger to Likud party leadership must rid himself from any such Israeli-style WASP image. After all, one of the reasons why Netanyahu lost the 2006 Knesset election was that he lost much of the working class Sephardic vote. This shift occurred after the cutbacks Netanyahu initiated in social services, child allowances, pensions and support for handicapped people during his term as Minister of Finance, 2003-2005. He never regained any enthusiastic backing among this key sector of the Israeli electorate.

There was an opportunity for Feiglin to pick up support with the Sephardic working class - and he did not use it.

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